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How to Teach Your Kids to Discipline Themselves

  • Megs Contributing Writer
  • 2016 6 Oct
How to Teach Your Kids to Discipline Themselves

The homework problem that stumps them… the toy they don’t want to share… the practice they don’t feel like attending… the commitment they don’t want to honor… the sibling they want to smack… Preparing our hearts daily with the truth of God’s Word enables us to breathe through our kids’ meltdowns and apply the discipline they need to grow into God’s calling on their lives.

“You are to honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12)

He doesn’t say, “only if you agree…” or “when you feel like it…” or even “if your parents are right.” After dealing with the Israelites in the desert for 40 years, no one knows the frustration of discipling their children as well as God. He wants what’s best for us, and He’s given us His Word to help us. Here are more distinct actions to prevent your child from running wild.

1. Tell them “no” and tell them why.

“Take 20 buttons out of your jar,” I tell my kids all week long. I’ve instilled a system that allows me a break from being the “no” monster all of the time. When their jars are full, my children are allowed to cash them in for a small prize. But losing their buttons helps children see a concrete ramification of their choices. Whether kids are told they can’t have it their way, break a rule, or are on a losing team, accepting the consequence is a necessary humbling. 

SEE ALSO: How to Discipline When You're Angry

2. Read His Word and give Him credit.

Having shown at up the same time I did every other day, swooping past the row of cars who refused to start a second pick-up line when cars began to spill onto the busy road… this day I was met with oncoming traffic and horns. I’m sure every parent assumed that I considered myself above waiting in line that day, but I kept my temper in check. I knew why. The time I spend with God in His Word every morning acts like a shield when I travel out into my day.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

I thanked Jesus, and my girls laughed at my driving. The discipline of being in the Word daily, and thanking Him for all things, is key teaching kids how to be disciplined people.

SEE ALSO: When Does Discipline Become Abuse?

3.Teach them what to do when it’s hard.

It’s our job to teach our kids what to do when things get hard. Common Core math has the ability to unravel our entire household after dinner, especially for my oldest daughter, who has never found school very hard. Slumped in the corner crying was her way of communicating that she’d given up. And I held her accountable by making her remove buttons from her behavior jar.

Paul, who suffered more hardship than most will ever be able to claim, stated “Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18). 

How do we relate this to our kids at their level? I reminded my daughter that she has two parents helping her… be thankful. Then, we worked on the math problems together. Coming alongside our kids illustrates our commonality as reliant, accountable human beings. She was able to finish her homework without a meltdown, and earn back all of her buttons.

SEE ALSO: The Spiritual Discipline of Teaching Kids Manners

“See?!” we exclaimed, “You’re getting it! You can do this!”

And God reminds us all, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14

  • Over time, with repetition and constant application, children will see the positive results of a disciplined life, and begin to instill their own work ethic. Through prayer and the daily application of God’s truth, we can discipline our kids so that they will learn to discipline themselves.


Megs is a stay-at-home mom and blogger at, where she writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. 

Publication date: October 6, 2016